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Harmoknight review

I hear your hea-aaa-arrrt splat to the beat of the drums...

How brilliant must it be to work for Game Freak? It makes the Pokemon games, so we're betting its office is a little livelier than Dunder Mifflin's. On a typical working day employees probably waste away the morning gluing abstract nouns together to see if they make a new Pokemon name and in the afternoon probably tear around the office in Bouffalant-shaped go-karts, or play volleyball with a real-life Woobat, or whatever. Just thinking about it makes us jealous, but it turns out that working at Game Freak is even more awesome than you'd think.

Periodically, members of the team are allowed to abscond from Pokemon duty to work on their own game ideas, on the company's time. Usually, nothing comes from these side-projects, but that's okay: it's more an exercise to keep the creative talent's minds sharp than anything else.

The great thing about this process for us is that when one of these projects grows into a fully fledged game, you can be sure it's going to be inventive, offbeat and patched together with love and care, which is exactly the case with HarmoKnight. It might seem saccharine and slight at first glance, but this utterly charming downloadable rhythm action title quickly whips its gloves off and delivers a challenge every bit as vicious as its boxed counterparts.

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Down With The Trumpets

For the most part, HarmoKnight is a rhythmic take on the 'running man' genre that is so popular on smartphones. As Tempo sprints through the level on autopilot, you have to swipe oncoming enemies in time with the beat by tapping A, or leap over obstacles as they approach with B. The controls might be simple, but there's more than enough going on in the levels to keep your mind occupied. For instance, there are floating notes scattered around the landscape: collecting these is the key to being awarded a high rank at the end of a level. The notes chime when you run over them, adding an extra layer to the music. It's a real treat for the lugholes when you're in full flight and hitting every note on time.

Further notes can be gathered by bashing enemies with your staff, or by clubbing the percussion-fruited plants that lurk harmlessly in the background. If you're feeling particularly ninja, you can squeeze extra notes out of the level by charging your attacks before striking. Once a level has been completed you can go back and attempt it on the expert setting, which is the same, but with a quicker tempo.

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It's great fun when it's on song, but some fundamental flaws prevent HarmoKnight from hitting the highest notes. The camera is zoomed in too closely for one, which makes it impossible to see what's coming up in front of you until it's time to act. To compensate, HarmoKnight spits out audio clues to let you know when enemies are approaching, but there's a discord between the beat and the timing and you'll find yourself relying heavily on visual cues. Compare this with the Rhythm Paradise series, in which action and music are so perfectly synchronised that it's possible to play some stages blindfolded.

The game is also pernickety about timing, which becomes an issue during boss battles. These play out in a similar fashion to Sega's Space Channel 5: the boss spews out timed attack patterns that must be memorised and repeated. Repeating these sequences isn't especially intuitive, since the background tunes aren't bold enough to help you establish a rhythm. This leads to frustrating difficulty spikes, but it's not enough to detract from your overall enjoyment.

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12 comments so far...
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  1. Legendary Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 08:12

    It's good there creating other games too, not just Pokemon.
    Would be even better if Game Freak and the others combined there characters together.
    Maybe a racing gaming, like Mario Kart.

  2. MartinIsAwesome Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 10:24

    I would have purchased this game straight away if it wasn't for the fact that there have been sales flying around all over the eShop. Not that I'm deterred by the Ł12.99 but I'm happy to wait for a slight price drop to get a slightly better deal out of it.

    Great review, by the way.

  3. tohaker Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 13:16

    I bought it the second it came out and I was not disappointed. Sure, it's a hefty price to pay for four hours, but it really does show what Game Freak are capable of. The boss battles are especially epic when most of the final shots end in the matrix style slow-mo shot of the you smashing it to smithereens! A great feeling on every play!

  4. Capt_Anders Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 13:47

    I would consider buying this if I could beat the wasp boss level on the demo!!!!

  5. fisher2007 Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 14:00

    I would consider buying this if I could beat the wasp boss level on the demo!!!!

    I can't beat it. :(

  6. Twinkle Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 19:57

    HarmoKnight is a really good game considering that it was something completely unique that GameFreak made. It was a pleasur to play it. I have finished the whole game and its a great experience! :)

  7. Layton link Saturday 20th Apr 2013 at 21:08

    Huh..A HarmoKnight review...this games been..out for a fair amount of time to be honest..

  8. Shinnos Sunday 21st Apr 2013 at 20:03

    I would consider buying this if I could beat the wasp boss level on the demo!!!!

    Took the words out of my mouth! I've tried replaying the demo a number of times and enjoyed the main levels, but then get to the wasp boss and just CANNOT beat him! Put me off buying the game if I'm not going to be able to progress past this point.

    I bought Runner 2 last week on the Wii U eshop. For the time being, that'll be more than enough for my rhythm-based gaming needs...

  9. DragonEleven Monday 22nd Apr 2013 at 13:47

    I can see why people are getting stuck on the demo, but I actually found it a bit too easy, clearing each level on the first attempt, with only one or two more attempts to get the top rank.
    It's probably because of this that I don't usually play rhythm games, but I am tempted to get Harmoknight (only partly because I'm a Pokemon fan), it's just that at the moment I'd rather play games that will keep me going for a while, and I get the impression that I'll just fly through this without being able to enjoy it properly.

  10. MartinIsAwesome Monday 22nd Apr 2013 at 15:12

    I'm really surprised that so many people here can't beat that Wasp boss in the demo. I missed a couple of times, but I mananged to finish it on my first go.

  11. SuperNintyFan333 Saturday 4th May 2013 at 14:26

    I'm really surprised that so many people here can't beat that Wasp boss in the demo. I missed a couple of times, but I mananged to finish it on my first go.

    I managed to do it in the end but the music is out of sync. If all boss battles are like the wasp one im not buying the game. Bit trip is fine for me at the moment.

  12. Tgamer Saturday 11th May 2013 at 14:44

    It also did'nt seem so good to me. Because the demo als was'nt amazing!

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